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What to Do About Asbestos

Updated: Mar 22

By Jason Allred CPI® January 11 2021

What happens when your Home Inspector has just informed you they found material "suspect" of asbestos?


An Inspector's guide to understanding asbestos, keeping calm, and remain proactive to keep yourself and others safe.



So you found your ideal home, it was recently remodeled, and you think the inspection is going to be a breeze. When you scan through the report, your inspector notifies you about "Suspect Asbestos Materials!" Don't let your hopes sink, asbestos is something to be concerned about, but with the proper guidance it can be managed.



The first thing you need to understand is that asbestos has been used since antiquity. The Egyptians used it to shroud the deceased pharaohs. Greeks and Romans used it in pottery to make them fire resistant, also it was used during cremation ceremonies in order to contain the remains. It was used by King Charlemagne as a fire proof table cloth. In Palestine during the first crusade it was particularly helpful in containing the flaming pitch that was hurled by trebuchets during siege warfare.


It has been mentioned, purchased and used by history's notables such as; Greek philosophers, explorers such as Marco Polo, kings, warriors, leaders like Peter the Great, and even American founding father, Benjamin Franklin. (Asbestos.com)


Yet even then observations were made, that craftsman who worked with the fiber and the slaves that mined it, were susceptible to what the ancients referred to as the "sickness of the lungs."


“The asbestos problem impacts everyone.”
John Engler 46th Governor Michigan State


What to Know


Asbestos in the modern era can be found in many applications; texture, joint compound, duct wrapping, furnace/boiler insulation, propane tanks, shingles, siding, mastic/adhesives, some tiles, some vinyl flooring, insulation, and electrical sheathing--to name a few. Although, it is highly unreasonable to assume that it is in everything, just because a house is old, you should be aware of its presence in your home. A valuable home inspector will be able to identify obvious materials that are suspect to contain asbestos, but even then many of the materials have no easy identification.


When to Worry About It


As long as you do not plan to disturb suspect materials there is no major concern. You can live in a home that has asbestos containing materials and the fibers will not affect you. You will not be affected by asbestos fibers unless the materials are "friable." Friable means that a material can be crushed by hand pressure, but in the sense of being a danger also depends on the condition of the building material. For example, with a degree of certainty most people can crush drywall with hand pressure, but it does not become "friable" unless the material is so badly damaged, that a person could access the drywall to crush it.



In other words, if you have suspect materials that aren't; falling off the ceiling joists, water damaged, mold damaged, disintegrating, being removed professionally, or are being disturbed (zonolite® insulation), then you won't be exposed to the fibers in your home.





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Why Should I Test?


Testing for suspect materials is the best method for knowing about what risks and dangers exist in your home. That is why Home Inspectors who have training in how to spot suspect materials are valuable. You should get a licensed or qualified building inspector to perform the test. This will prepare you for several possible scenarios and save you time.

  1. If you have a home flood or fire, your project could be on hold for up to a week while contractors wait for asbestos results. Having them on hand will greatly reduce the time to get started if they are negative, and will instantly trigger the need for abatement if they are positive.

  2. In the event a ceiling which was tested positive, suddenly falls (typically from small water leaks, wind damages, or storm events) you will know to evacuate the home and get an abatement started. This event could be classified as a massive spill if the materials are spread via air ways throughout the rest of the home.

The bottom line is Your Safety.


Did Your Inspector Find Zonolite® or Vermiculite Insulation?


Vermiculite insulation is an insulation, typically used in attic spaces to insulate between rafter ties. It was very popular in the later 60's, throughout the 70's and the early 80's. Most vermiculite is dangerous because it contains trace amounts of asbestos. The reason for this is that vermiculite and asbestos are two minerals typically found near one another. Although some building inspectors do not consider it to be friable, I consider it to be friable because by disturbing it you release dust into the air.


Zonolite® was a brand of vermiculite insulation which was primarily mined in Libby, Montana. Between 1963 and 1990 a major mine in Libby, Montana was operated by company W.R. Grace. The mine closed in 1990 after discovering several thousand employees and residents of the town were sick from inhaling asbestos dust, with 400 confirmed dead.


To make matters worse the product was dispersed and used in homes all across North America during that time. W.R. Grace did not receive full national attention until the year 1999-2000 and the entire town was closed off to the public. The Environmental Protection Agency took over cleanup operations in 1999 and did not fully release oversight of the town until 2021. The mine however remains under EPA oversight to present day. (Asbestos.com)


What You Should Know If You Have Zonolite® and proof of Manufacture.

Do Not Use Without Permission
Photo By Jason Allred


The great news is that for those of you who have proof of Zonolite® (usually a bag or paperwork) there is a trust which will help to pay for the removal of the insulation. In the event your inspector discovers the material and you decide to purchase the home you should use the contact information below, to discover options in obtaining assistance from the trust, in order to remove the material.


You can access the trust website below to begin the process in receiving financial aid to remove the insulation,

www.zonoliteatticinsulation.com or, call the toll free number at 844-924-2255.


Never, under any circumstances, should a person attempt to remove vermiculite insulation unless they are qualified and licensed to do so. Always reach out to a qualified Asbestos Abatement company for all vermiculite removal or other asbestos containing material removal.


Works Cited

Asbestos.Com, "Libby" October 7 2021 https://www.asbestos.com/jobsites/libby/

Asbestos.Com "History of Asbestos" February 26 2021 https://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/history/


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